As the first coronavirus vaccines started to be rolled out at the end of a tumultuous 2020, UK officials unexpectedly endorsed stretching the gap between the first and second vaccine dose by up to three months – an approach also considered by other countries.
Professor Martijn Nawijn, an immunologist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, tells Horizon about his quest to map every cell in a healthy human lung. He says this work should help to understand more about the causes of lung disease - which is comparatively understudied - and should lead to new therapies in the next 15 to 20 years.
There was one science story that dominated 2020 and coronavirus is likely to remain a dominant theme in 2021. But from vaccine rollout to lessons for future pandemics and – that other big challenge that we’re facing – climate change, how will the year in science play out? We asked a selection of our interviewees about lessons from 2020 and what needs to happen in their fields in the coming year.
To diagnose and contain the spread of coronavirus, testing is critical. There are two types of Covid-19 tests — those that are designed to detect whether you have the infection now, or those crafted to check whether you have been previously infected by the virus — SARS-CoV-2 — that causes the disease. Like any other product these tests have varying degrees of accuracy and reliability, and can be used to achieve different aims.
From corals bunkering down in deeper waters to wait out climate change stress, to how vaccines can boost our immune system beyond a specific disease – here are the 20 most surprising scientific facts that we discovered this year.
The virus that causes Covid-19 hijacks human cells by exploiting a ‘doorway’ that is potentially also used by other deadly viruses such as HIV, dengue and Ebola, according to recent research that may help to explain why the coronavirus is so highly infectious to a wide range of organs in the body. Dr Yohei Yamauchi, a viral cell biologist at the University of Bristol, UK, who led the research, believes that the finding could not only lead to new drugs against Covid-19, but other anti-viral treatments that could be used to save patients’ lives in future pandemics.
The world’s first mRNA vaccine has begun its rollout after being produced at unprecedented speed as part of the global effort to end the Covid-19 pandemic. A second one is hot on its heels. The two – one made by Pfizer/BioNTech and the other by Moderna – mark the first time this vaccine technology has been approved for use.
Henk-Jan Guchelaar knows all too well the serious problems that the side-effects of medication can cause. As a professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, he has spent the last two decades trying to get the link between medicine and our genes recognised more widely.
Live vaccines can give health effects beyond just protecting us from a specific disease and may even help us combat other infections such as Covid-19, according to Christine Stabell Benn, a professor in global health at the University of Southern Denmark.
Efforts to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 with a vaccine could be hampered by low levels of confidence in immunisation programs in some European countries, warns Professor Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project and an anthropologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in the UK.
Pragmatic or dangerous – what do the experts say?
Better predictions of volcano behaviour could protect people and infrastructure.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.